HBCU Elizabeth City State: A Cautionary Tale of Mismanagement

By Giovanni Zaburoni

Unreported crimes, failed leadership, lack of funding, and low support from the community is a recipe for disaster, and Elizabeth City State University is dealing with all of those issues right now. The revelation is prompting fears of drastic changes being made by the University System of North Carolina that will impact the makeup of the historically black college.

According to HBCU Digest, in 2015, an unnamed official told financial aid officers to enroll as many students as they could regardless of whether they were qualified to attend the school. According to the News & Observer, 232 students enrolled that year, but 35 of them were not qualified to be admitted and three students with criminal backgrounds were approved.

The school was already in trouble after 126 reports of crimes went uninvestigated between the years of 2007 and 2013, 18 of which were sexual assaults, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The campus police chief resigned from his post shortly thereafter along with one other officer. Another officer quit and three went on leave of absence. ECSU ended up paying off-duty city detectives to work the cases.

Now that ECSU’s problems have been exposed to the public, there is a push for the school’s mission to be changed. According to an editorial in The News & Observer, “UNC officials would do well at this point to look not at closing, but at changes in direction to keep this institution, in an isolated part of northeastern North Carolina, open and serving the public. That could mean refocusing its mission from one of general education to something more specialized such as training in health care, or computers or other technical specialties. ECSU, after all, is an important employer in the area and its facilities are of value. There is, surely, a way for ECSU to serve the public as it is intended to do. Thinking outside the box a little, beyond the traditional university mission, would be of no harm and might provide a path to a productive future.”

HBCUs have to walk a fine line when it comes to following the rules because they are often under more scrutiny than predominantly white institutions. State leaders and some members of the university system establishment are waiting for HBCU leaders to be enticed by money, corruption, politics, and ego so they can turn the schools into something that better reflects their views.

Let this be a message to all the HBCUs across the nation. Be professional and ethical in everything that you do because whether you see them or not, people are watching and waiting to take what is yours.

Sources: HBCU Disgest, Pilot Online

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